ACTA on the ropes: Protests could sink anti-piracy treaty
- By Kevin McCaney
- Feb 06, 2012
Protests spreading across Europe against an international anti-piracy
agreement — which have included website hacks and Guy Fawkes
mask-wearing lawmakers joining in — have put the Anti-Counterfeiting
Trade Agreement on hold.
first developed by the United States and Japan in 2006, is an attempt
to set international standards for protection of copyrights and other
intellectual property. But opponents claim it would infringe on free
speech, privacy and digital freedoms, voicing essentially the same
reasons for the protests in January that have effectively scuttled U.S.
The Stop Online Piracy Act in the House and the Protect Intellectual
Property Act before the Senate were targeted Jan. 18 by a massive online
protest that included several large sites such as Wikipedia and Reddit
choosing to go dark for a day, and since then lawmakers have backed away
It’s time to shelve SOPA, PIPA
Congress backs away from SOPA, PIPA in face of public outcry
In Europe, ACTA appeared to be gaining steam recently, as
representatives of 22 of 27 European members signed on. But the
agreement also has to be ratified by each country’s government, and
recent protests appear to have turned officials away from the treaty.
In Poland, protests included lawmakers wear Guy Fawkes masks (a
common symbol for the hacker group Anonymous and the various Occupy
movements) in parliament and have prompted Prime Minister Donald Tuck to
hold off on ratification, ArsTechnica reported. All EU members must ratify the treaty for it to take effect, Ars reported.
The United States, along with Australia, Canada, Japan, Morocco, New Zealand, Singapore and South Korea, signed ACTA
in October 2011, though it has not yet been ratified. In all, 31
countries have signed the agreement so far, though none have ratified
it, ZDNet reported.
Meanwhile, protests in Europe continue, with abut 100 more expected this week, the BBC reported. More than 1.75 million people have signed a petition calling for ACTA’s rejection.
Protests have included attacks on government websites, including those of Greece, Poland and the European Parliament.
In Slovenia, the protests were led by that country’s ambassador to
Japan, Helene Drnovsek Zorko, who had signed the treaty but has since
repented. The BBC reported that Zorko apologized for signing the treaty,
releasing a statement saying that, "Quite simply, I did not clearly
connect the agreement I had been instructed to sign with the agreement
that, according to my own civic conviction, limits and withholds the
freedom of engagement on the largest and most significant network in
human history, and thus limits particularly the future of our children."
The impact of the European protests is similar to the protests in the
United States against SOPA and PIPA, in which millions of people signed
petitions opposing the proposed laws and thousands of websites and
blogs went dark Jan. 18. Almost immediately, lawmakers began disowning
But although SOPA, PIPA and ACTA ostensibly share the same goal —
protecting intellectual property rights — they don’t contain the same
The biggest objections to SOPA and PIPA are to provisions that would
require service providers to block websites deemed to be trafficking in
counterfeit goods and search engines to direct traffic away from them.
In addition to smacking of censorship and potentially blacklisting sites
that inadvertently carried some counterfeit items, the provisions would
undercut efforts to secure the Internet’s Domain Name System. Part of
that effort is to prevent the redirection of traffic.
ACTA’s opponents say the international agreement would do the same thing, but Timothy B. Lee at Ars Technica points out that ACTA contains no blocking or redirecting provisions.
In fact, Lee writes that many of the strongest claims made of ACTA
opponents “are highly misleading or outright inaccurate,” and details
four of the most egregious examples.
Lee doesn’t approve of ACTA, calling it a bad agreement, but he writes that it should be debated on its merits.
Although the protests could wind up sinking ACTA, some form of
international standards still might be the best way to protect
SOPA’s early opponents in Congress, for example, nevertheless agreed
that some kind of rules are needed to protect music, movies and other
copyrighted works against piracy, most of which is carried out by
foreign operations. They just objected to some of the bill’s more
And GCN’s William Jackson contends that international cooperation would be the most effective way of dealing with pirate operations.
International treaties don’t work without international cooperation,
so if the protests in Europe kill ACTA there, it could be back to the
drawing board for copyright protection efforts.
Kevin McCaney is a former editor of Defense Systems and GCN.